Like any consumer product, cannabis should be tested for quality, safety, and purity. Consumers need to be confident in the information provided on the packaging. Testing is the only way to ensure that a product is what it says it is and holds producers accountable in front of the public. The verification that the testing provides help to screen out an unsafe or mislabeled product before it goes to market. It also ensures that a CBD product either has the correct amount of THC or none at all.
Although state regulations differ when it comes to testing standards, all U.S. states require some amount of testing before cannabis can be legally sold.
Testing is performed to identify harmful particles and verify the percentage of the claimed potency. Cannabis can also be tested for water and residual moisture, as well as numerous other solvents and compounds.
Keeping a firm grasp of the concentration of active ingredients is imperative throughout the supply chain. Medical professionals who prescribe cannabis for a host of maladies need to be sure that the proper dosage amounts are administered to patients.
Along with being a concern of ethics, ensuring the proper dosage also affects a cannabis business' bottom line. Higher concentrations of CBD or THC typically command higher prices.
The Risks of Failing to Test Cannabis
Without proper testing, contaminated cannabis can find its way to consumers. As food, medicine, and cosmetics (with some exceptions) are all tested before they make it to the shelves, it stands to reason that cannabis should be tested too. This is important both for medicinal and recreational cannabis.
A percentage of all cannabis that is lab-tested can contain unsafe substances such as pesticides, heavy metals, mold, or other harmful microbes. Testing can be the measure that triggers safety recalls to remove potentially harmful cannabis products from the market.
Tainted cannabis can be deadly.
Both healthy individuals and immunocompromised folks can be seriously harmed as a result of consuming contaminated cannabis. The discovery of a contaminated batch of cannabis can end up costing growers anywhere from thousands all the way to hundreds of thousands of dollars!
While losing a batch of cannabis can result in hardships, it's still a more palatable option compared to losing millions of dollars from a fiscal standpoint. Consider the ramifications that a company could face as a result of releasing dirty products onto the market that either leads to sickness or death. The risk simply isn't worth it.
The good news is that cannabis decontamination systems, such as the Rad Source's Photonic Decontamination, can help ensure that unwanted mold and bacteria are eliminated without affecting the cannabis flowers.
When Should Cannabis Be Tested?
It is always better to test sooner rather than later. Serious growers of all sizes of operations test at varying stages of cannabis development, but most importantly, when the flower has been harvested.
Along with being imperative from health and legal standpoints, it also contributes towards a positive bottom line. The sooner the product passes the test, the sooner it can be distributed onto store shelves. As transportation and lab bottlenecks often cause delays, the sooner a sample is sent for testing, the better it is both for the consumer and producer.
It's also very important to test during various stages as dangerous mycotoxins can develop at any time. These secondary metabolite compounds are produced by mold or fungi and can develop undetected on cannabis plants at all stages of development. Mold can not only infect the flower, but also any other compound, whether botanical or otherwise, that go into the production of cannabis consumer products.
Molds can grow on plants at any point before harvest, during storage or anytime throughout as a result of improper handling. Proper storage is especially critical as warm and humid environments are perfect for mycotoxins to thrive.
These mycotoxins are survivors. They are stable and can remain chemically intact and viable throughout the entire processing procedures. This is why pre- and post-harvest testing is advisable. Post-processing tests are also a good idea to identify the presence of harmful organisms.
How Cannabis is Tested
Many labs use high-performance liquid chromatography, or “HPLC”, to measure concentration and purity of CBD and THC. This method has supplanted the previously used gas chromatography testing. This method also evaluates their respective acids, tetrahydrocannabinolic and cannabidiolic acids.
This is done by grinding dried cannabis samples and putting them into solvents to extract the cannabinoids. The solvent/biomass mix is then placed into the HPLC system to separate out the differing compounds by forcing the mixture through granules. This allows for successful isolation of various cannabinoids, flavonoids, and terpenes along with their respective concentrations.
These concentrations are then often assessed by another method called mass spectrometry. Further testing such as polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and DNA testing is done to find the tiniest particle of biological contaminants such as fungi and bacteria.
To ensure accountability throughout the process, strict chains of custody are often observed, if not outright required to assure that no unsafe cannabis product makes it out onto the market.
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